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Montana, Idaho hunters to set sights on gray wolves

July 10, 2009 |  1:50 pm

GraywolfAP Hunters in Montana and Idaho will seemingly become the first to legally participate in gray wolf hunts in the lower 48 states since the animals were removed last May from the endangered list throughout much of the Northern Rockies.

A quota of 75 wolves has been set in Montana, with hunting season scheduled for September. Idaho's quota, as yet undetermined, will be larger.

The hunts will face legal challenges by environmental groups but wildlife managers in both states have argued that hunts are a critical means to prevent the predators from becoming too numerous and posing a larger threat to cattle and sheep.

In a story in the Idaho Statesman, Montana wolf biologist Carolyn Sime said, "You either eliminate all the wolves or you eliminate all the livestock."

There are an estimated 1,350 wolves in Montana and Idaho. Lawsuits by environmental groups regarding the predators' removal from the endangered list are pending.

Doug Honnold, an attorney for Earthjustice, told the Statesman: "We don't think hunts should be allowed until there's a legitimate recovery." That group awaits the Idaho quota announcement before determining its next course of action.

Gray wolves once thrived across the lower 48 but were decimated by hunting, trapping and poisoning in the early 1900s.

-- Pete Thomas

Gray wolf photo by Associated Press